Washington, DC (May 25, 2016):  Today, the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Prometheus Radio Project v. Federal Communications Commission castigated the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its failure to act on the definition of “small disadvantaged business enterprises” (SDBs) that would be eligible to benefit from FCC diversity initiatives.  The Court directed the FCC to enter into a mediation aimed at creating a new definition of these “eligible entities” and gave a clear warning that if the Commission does not come up with a workable deadline for establishing a new definition of “eligible entities,” it will step in.

The FCC has promised studies on minority and female ownership for more than two decades, and the Court directed the Commission to finally take action, stating that if the FCC “needs more data” to find a definition that will improve minority ownership, “it must get it.”

The Court also extracted from the FCC a promise to address 24 MMTC minority ownership proposals.  The Court expects the FCC to circulate an order ruling on these proposals in June.  Some of MMTC’s proposals have been pending before the FCC for over a decade.

“Justice delayed is not justice denied. After 12 years of FCC delay, at last a definition that would advance minority broadcast ownership appears to be within reach,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “We are encouraged that the Third Circuit wants to give relief to multicultural owners in the clear future rather than some distant, unknown future.”

MMTC looks forward to working with the FCC to develop a timeline within the court-ordered 60-day timeframe to make sure that the long-awaited studies are completed.  [click to continue…]

TV Remote Set TopWashington, DC (May 24, 2016):  The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has filed reply comments in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Set-Top Box Proceeding, stressing its concern and highlighting alarm raised by many on the impact of the proposal put forth in the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and citing tremendous consequences for diverse and independent programmers.  Nine other national civil rights organizations (the Coalition) joined MMTC as signers on the comments.[1]

The Coalition holds that the evidence on record in the Commission’s proceeding strongly validates its concerns that the NPRM’s proposal would jeopardize the viability of diverse voices.  The Coalition cites communities of color and “actual producers of diverse and independent programming” who have warned the Commission that “the proposal would jeopardize their ability to establish and expand their businesses, or even to continue in business at all.”  The Coalition goes on to further warn, “The FCC must not dismiss these arguments.”  [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (May 9, 2016): Today, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) released a white paper on zero-rating, the practice by mobile carriers of offering data access to some websites and content at no charge to customer data plans. The paper, titled Understanding and Appreciating Zero-Rating: The Use and Impact of Free Data in the Mobile Broadband Sector, examines the zero-rated plans offered by the four major mobile carriers and the impacts and benefits for consumers.

The paper assesses the impacts of free data plans in five key areas: (1) the digital divide, (2) consumers who rely on mobile broadband connectivity, (3) mobile broadband business model experimentation, (4) innovation in the mobile ecosystem, and (5) consumer empowerment. In each of the five areas assessed, MMTC found that the benefits and impacts of free data are profound and wide-ranging. Benefits abound at both the industry level and consumer level, including bringing more people online, bolstering the uses and experiences of those who rely on mobile broadband connections, and supporting more vibrant and robust innovation in the mobile ecosystem.

The paper also addresses concerns that frame free data offerings as contrary to the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order. The Commission initially lauded the free data programs but later adopted a more skeptical approach. MMTC concludes that “free data remains vulnerable to the capricious political winds that are increasingly shaping the broadband ecosystem,” adding that “[p]remature or unnecessary intervention by an entity like the FCC would likely chill further experimentation with offerings such as free data, an outcome that would prove devastating to consumers and contrary to the innovative ethos that has long permeated the U.S. wireless space.”  [click to continue…]

The following op-ed is by Former FCC Bureau Chief and MMTC Board Member Deborah Lathen. The original post is available on Broadcasting and Cable.

Innovation may move at the speed of light, but the agency charged with overseeing much of that innovation, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), simply does not.

That hasn’t changed since 1998 when I was chief of its Cable Services Bureau charged with drafting the first cable set-top box order. At the time, the FCC voted to “unlock the box” by requiring companies to separate the security feature that protects encrypted, copyrighted content from the box itself. The hope was that separating security and the box would spur lots of different companies to build boxes consumers could buy from Circuit City, Radio Shack or Crazy Eddie.

Here’s the problem: The FCC policy never really took with consumers.  Only a few thousand cable customers ever bought a box with the FCC’s fix. Finally, in 2015, Congress got rid of the integration ban. Over the years there were various failed attempts at a better solution to making the box commercially available, but the box ceased to be a high priority on the FCC’s agenda.

Now, in an inexplicable bout of déjà vu, a lame-duck FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, is making another run at creating a market for set-top boxes through a catchy sales pitch, “Expanding Consumers’ Video, Navigation Choices—Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices.”  The cable industry and Hollywood say this FCC proceeding is a giveaway to Silicon Valley. It requires programmers to allow behemoths like Google access to their proprietary content that can be streamlined, repackaged, and wrapped around new packages of advertising. [click to continue…]

Set-Top BoxWashington, DC (April 26, 2016):  The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) has filed comments in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Set-Top Box Proceeding, urging the Commission to reconsider its proposal due to the adverse unintended consequences for diverse and independent programmers.  Nine other national civil rights organizations (the MMTC Coalition) joined MMTC as signers on the comments.[1]

“The Commission is promoting a model that hands over the hard work of diverse programmers and content creators to companies that will profit from their work without compensating them,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “The Commission should not place its finger on the scale and pick winners and losers in this proceeding, with diverse content creators and distributors clearly on the losing end.  We urge the Commission to pause this proceeding and conduct evidentiary studies on the impact of the set top box proposal on diversity, privacy, and cost to consumers.”

The MMTC Coalition recommends that the Commission pause its set-top proceeding in order to conduct several crucial evidentiary studies.  Specifically, the MMTC Coalition urges the Commission to:

  • Conduct an empirical study exploring the proposal’s impact on diverse content, diverse ownership, and the visibility of diverse faces on-screen
  • Analyze the likely increased costs to consumers under the proposal
  • Assess the proposal’s impact on consumer privacy protections

[click to continue…]

BroadbandThis week, AT&T announced the launch of a new program to address the issue that has  left many consumers without Internet service stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide: price.

Called “Access from AT&T,” the program will help bring Internet access to qualifying households at a more affordable rate.  MMTC is excited to help get the word out about this important new program and to ensure that the people who need it most find out about it first.

Programs like Access from AT&T are key to connecting every American regardless of income.  Whether the Internet is used in a job search, to access virtual library shelves, or to complete an online education, MMTC has long advocated that Internet service can change lives for the better. [click to continue…]

Washington, DC (April 20, 2016):  Today, Comcast announced its new Xfinity TV Partner Program that will allow consumers to access their Comcast cable service without a traditional set-top box thanks to new partnerships with Samsung and Roku to include Comcast Xfinity apps on their devices.  The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) lauds Comcast for this innovation and effort to improve viewer experience.

“The marketplace is the best way to drive innovation,” stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan.  “Comcast is leading the pack by freeing its customers of the box while allowing them to choose what and where they will watch their cable package.”

The availability of apps from cable providers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Charter on devices such as Roku and Samsung Smart TV further supports MMTC’s position that the FCC’s unlock the box proceeding is unnecessary.  [click to continue…]

VOTEOn April 18, 2016, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC), along with 8 national civil rights and minority media organizations, wrote the following letter to the 2016 presidential candidates; the Democratic, Republican, Green, and Libertarian National Committees; and the top SuperPACs representing each candidate. The letter urges the candidates, parties, and PACs to include minority-owned media as a major component of their advertising plans throughout the 2016 campaign.

MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan stated, “Communities of color have a deep connection with minority owned media, yet time after time they are ignored during the election cycle, or treated as an afterthought during the last moments of the campaign.  Our community deserves more than last-minute advertising. Candidates from every party, PAC, and as individuals need to put their messages in our media so our people can be mobilized to vote.  Advertising in trusted, minority media sources helps voters to identify which candidates have their best interests at heart, and is a prime opportunity to meet a key voting segment ‘where they are.’ Candidates must invest their ad dollars in minority- and women-owned media.”

The text of the letter, including the full list of organizations, is below. A PDF is also available here.

To:

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
The Honorable Ted Cruz
The Honorable John Kasich
The Honorable Bernie Sanders
Mr. Donald Trump
Democratic National Committee
     Attn: The Honorable Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chairwoman
Green Party National Committee
     Attn: Jan Martell, Secretary
Libertarian National Committee
     Attn:  Wes Benedict, Executive Director
Republican National Committee
     Attn: The Honorable Reince Priebus, Chairman
Keep the Promise III
     Attn: Jon Francis, President
Make America Great Again
     Attn: Leslie Caldwell, Secretary
New Day for America
     Attn: Matt Carle, Executive Director
Priorities USA Action
     Attn: Buffy Wicks, Executive Director

April 18, 2016

Dear Colleagues:

            RE:       Political Campaign Engagement with Minority-Owned Media

We write to appeal to each of you to confirm that minority-owned media will be included as a major component of your advertising plans throughout the 2016 campaign.

Our constituents, comprising nearly 30% of the electorate, want and deserve to hear from all sides of public policy debates.

For nearly 200 years, minority-owned media has been the benchmark for credibility and the key to generating enthusiastic engagement by voters of color.  For this reason, ads in minority publications have enormous impact relative to their cost.

Credibility and engagement of voters must be earned over time from the beginning to the end of campaigns.  They cannot be produced with a twenty-year-old recycled ad template published in the final two weeks of a campaign – a pattern that we have seen appear every two years.

Placing ads throughout the campaign, in newspapers, websites, or broadcast stations that represent voters of color, demonstrates that the candidate “walks the walk” of supporting minority entrepreneurship.  This remains an issue of profound importance to voters of color and is a key issue on which all of the parties and candidates should agree.

At your disposal are a host of minority-owned media outlets:  over 400 newspapers, over 500 radio stations, over two dozen widely read minority-owned political and social justice websites, and over a dozen widely viewed cable channels.  We can provide lists of these outlets on request.

Please respond within ten days to promptly to advise us of your specific plans to use minority- owned print, broadcast, and online media throughout the remainder of this year’s campaign.  We look forward to sharing your plans with our constituency.

Sincerely,  */

Kim M. Keenan
President and CEO
Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC)

Martha Montoya
President
National Association of Hispanic Publications

Marc H. Morial
President and CEO
National Urban League

Mee Moua
President and Executive Director
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC

Denise Rolark-Barnes
Chair
National Newspaper Publishers Association

Hilary O. Shelton
Director, Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy
NAACP

Sonny Skyhawk
Founder
American Indians in Film and Television

Brent Wilkes
National Executive Director
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

James Winston
President and Executive Director
National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters

April 13, 2016

 

The Honorable Greg Walden
2186 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Anna Eshoo
241 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Walden and Congresswoman Eshoo:

The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (“MMTC”) respectfully submits this letter to express our concern about the proposals included in H.R. 4884, Controlling the Unchecked and Reckless Ballooning of the Lifeline Fund Act (“CURB Lifeline Act 2015”).  Our concerns are focused on the two-year phase out of mobile voice as an eligible service and the proposal of a hard cap on the Lifeline program budget.  We also provide feedback on H.R. 3998, Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act (“SANDy Act”).

On March 24, 2016, fourteen civil rights organizations, including MMTC, sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (“the Commission”) requesting that newly adopted Lifeline program rules embrace and support multiple technologies so that the nation’s neediest communities can reach parity with the rest of the nation in terms of broadband infrastructure.1   Our organizations also called on the Commission to be cautious in the establishment of new minimum standards for mobile voice services, coupled with the immediate reduction and eventual elimination of available support for mobile voice services.  We continue to maintain that removing support for mobile voice will potentially price out the very people that the Lifeline program is seeking to support.  Consequently, we urge that Congress not mandate the phase-out of mobile voice-only service within two years of enactment.  Historically disadvantaged consumers, such as low-income populations, seniors, the disabled, and others, have demonstrated their reliance on wireless voice services as their primary “lifeline” to communications services and a road out of poverty.  As MMTC has shared with the Commission, access to broadband services must be more ubiquitous before redirecting the subsidy toward broadband-only services for these vulnerable populations.  [click to continue…]

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 4, 2016):  After nearly eleven years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), on March 31, issued its Multilingual Emergency Alert System (EAS) Order (“EAS Order”) essentially rejecting the “Katrina Petition” filed following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by the Multicultural Media, Telecommunications, and Internet Council (MMTC), the Independent Spanish Broadcasters Association, and the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ.

The Petition, driven by the events leading up to, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, sought to ensure that in life-threatening emergencies, such as hurricanes that disable telephone and some broadcast communications, at least one radio station would pre-commit to providing life-saving information in widely spoken languages other than English.

The FCC’s own 2006 Katrina Advisory Committee, headed by former NTIA Director Nancy Victory, endorsed relief similar to the reforms recommended by the Katrina Petition.  Fifty-seven national organizations endorsed the Katrina Petition.  This overwhelming support for the Petition was not noted in the FCC’s Order.  [click to continue…]